Sometimes engagement rings can get lost and then found. Sometimes people can too. All it takes is a heavy-duty dose of karma and the magic of Manhattan to make it all come together.
Leah is a financially destitute new age hippy. James is a wealthy surgeon with a trust fund. She’s awkward, he’s poised. She’s completely crazy, he’s way too sane. People might say they have nothing in common, but they’d be wrong. They both live in Manhattan, they both have no idea how to change a baby diaper, and they’re both lost … until they find one another.
“You’re late again, Leah.” Belinda is giving me the tired face, the one that says she wants to scold me but then we’d both realize there’s really no point in me being here when she’s probably only had one customer all morning. Plus, she’s terrible at being mad at me for longer than five seconds.
“I’m sorry, Belinda, I really am. It won’t happen again.” I rush through the store to get to the messy back room where I dump my bag on a ratty chair and check myself in the mirror for any errant nostril-lint. I won’t bother checking my hair; it’s always a crazy, frizzed-out, curly mess in a shade of blond that’s unfortunately referred to as dishwater. So attractive.
“If I had a nickel for every time you’ve said that,” she says, finishing with a sigh.
“I know, I know,” I say, wiggling my nose left and right, lifting my head up and down to get a better view, “you’d have at least two dollars.”
“Come out here, Smarty-Pants, we got a shipment of new essential oils and I want you to set up a new spot for them.”
When I left home earlier, I’d tried to console myself over the inevitable boring day I was about to have with ideas of an ice cream splurge after work, but now my mood perks up instantly even without the ice cream, and my pinkie finger freezes in mid eyebrow-shaping. “New oils? From where?”
That gets me out of the back room in an instant. “You didn’t order from Greenterra did you?”
She won’t look at me.
“But you said…”
“I know what I said. Never listen to me, I’m a liar.”
I walk over and put my arm around her shoulders and pull her against me. “You never lie. You just change your mind sometimes, and since you’re a chick, you’re entitled.”
“Ha! I stopped being a chick thirty years ago. I’m a hen now. A clucky, tired, angry old hen. But I got tired of you bugging me, so I ordered some of that garbage so you can see I’m right about it never selling.”
I laugh and let her go, moving over to the stack of boxes that are in the corner of the store. “You might be tired, but that’s only because you work too hard. You don’t get to claim henhood until you’re at least sixty so you have … twelve years left of being a chick.” I cut open the first box to reveal the beautiful dark, purplish-blue glass bottles inside. “Why don’t you stop going to the farmer’s market every weekend?” I ask. “You hardly make any money there anyway.” I hold the bottle up to the meager light coming in the front window and smile over the fact that I can barely see inside.
Sunlight diminishes the power of the oils, and I’m glad to see this company knows its stuff.
“I like the farmer’s market,” she says. “It’s better to be outside than cramped up in here all the time.”
I can’t argue with her there. This place is dark and dreary, but Belinda has always fought with me over making any changes. Not that I’m Miss Interior Design or anything, but I do know the difference between a cave and a new-age shop. This place looks more like the former, even though the name on the sign outside says it’s Belinda’s New Age Wonders.
“Speaking of the market, I’m going to need you to cover for me in two weeks.”
I look up in surprise. This isn’t something I’m used to hearing; Belinda lives for the farmer’s market.
“Why? Where are you going?”
She acts like she’s busy rearranging pens on the counter and shrugs. “Nowhere special. Just my thirty-year high school reunion.”
I stop what I’m doing and clap while hopping a few times. “Oh my god, that’s so exciting!”
She tries to shrug it off, still pretending pen alignment matters. “It’s no big deal. I got cheap plane tickets and figured I could miss two market days.”
“Oh, Belinda, you’re finally getting out into the real world. That’s awesome. I’m so happy for you.”
She looks up with a scowl. “You act like I’m some kind of shut-in.” She folds both sides of her shawl tighter across her chest.
I put my hands on my hips and give her my best mom-look. “Name the last time you went anywhere but here, your apartment, or the market.”
“I go places.”
“Just because I like to buy my veggies fresh…”
“Listen, you do all your shopping at the market. All of it, including your clothes and shoes. You’re like the poster-girl of clean living. But you need to get out more, I’ve been telling you that for years.
There’s more to the world than hemp skirts and organic mushrooms.
“You’ve only worked here for nine months so there’s no way you’ve told me anything for years.”
I wave my hand around, sending her negativity away. My bracelets jangle like I’m some kind of belly dancer. I love feeling like a belly dancer. Ching ching.
“Whatever. You know what I mean.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she says, leaving the counter to go into the back room, her voice fading with the distance, “just don’t make any plans for the fifteenth and sixteenth, okay? You’ll be in charge of everything for two full days.”
I resist the urge to rub my palms together like an evil genius, but it’s hard. I’ve been wanting to get my hands on her stuff for years. Okay, so it’s only been nine months, but it’s been nine loooong months. All this place needs is a little freshening up, and the customers would come in droves. Then I’d have a job for life and not just one for as long as Belinda can survive. I seriously don’t know how she affords to pay me anything at all; even minimum wage is too much for what I see coming in the door.
“And don’t get any crazy ideas,” she shouts. “I know what you’re thinking and it’s not going to happen.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I say, trilling my words like a Disney princess as I line up essential oil bottles on a tiny shelf attached to the wall. I cannot keep the smile off my face. She is so going to love it when I’m done with the place. Love it. Love love.
About the Author:
Elle Casey is a prolific, NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling American writer who lives in Southern France with her husband, three kids, and several furry friends.
She writes in several genres and publishes an average of one full-length novel per month.